by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter
Undertaking a new marketing effort can be both exhilarating and maybe a little bit frightening. Executing an entirely new strategy in a channel that has no precedent in your industry is an entirely different ballgame.
Sharedserviceslink.com, a UK-based online community for finance shared services professionals, launched a new version of its website last year. Shared service centers are "companies within companies" that perform a centralized business function. Sharedsherviceslink.com helps large corporations create shared service centers based on the finance function within the organization.
Ricardo Molina, Marketing Director, sharedserviceslink.com, said, "More than just a facelift, we refreshed our visual identity, radically improved how we share information and interact with members and visitors, and differentiated ourselves from other (competing) company websites, positioning sharedserviceslink.com as an information provider."
The problem was the company wanted to get the word out about the new website in an engaging and memorable way to an industry that is very traditional, and as Molina put it, "very risk averse from a marketing perspective."
One goal was to break through that conservative perception with a website launch promotion that would stand out and get the industry talking about, and recommending, the website. One obstacle sharedserviceslink.com faced was competition with more marketing and financial muscle that was increasing its marketing activities.
The result was an eight-week effort involving multiple channels all based around an online game at the new site. Find out how this gamification element worked in appealing to a conservative B2B market and how it outperformed the main goal of the effort.
"These challenges were also the big opportunity for us to truly ‘engage’ with our audience and industry in a new, unconventional and impactful way," explained Molina."We wanted to do something radically different."
Step #1. Conduct research on the strategy
Even though Molina believed the gamification strategy would be effective, before executing the strategy, the team conducted some research through speaking with key customers at events and over the phone. Webinar sessions included feedback polls after they were completed.
This led to several conclusions:
- It would be the first and only game in the finance shared services business space
- Gaming is emerging as a method for capturing the attention of a target audience
- Gamification is "fresh and exciting" for B2B
- For the strategy to be successful, it needed to be relevant to the business and lend itself to strong branding
The research also found positive feedback via a small focus group of industry contacts.
"Based on observational research, we felt passionate and confident that the idea had legs," stated Molina.
He continued, "Every day city workers and commuters play games on their phones. Online poker is creating a storm and many UK households have a Wii."
Molina said these trends led to the idea of using an online game with a B2B twist to create buzz around the launch of the new website.
Step #2. Create the game
After deciding to go forward with the strategy, Molina created and coordinated a team from three vendors consisting of:
- Game developers
- Website developers
He also began conducting briefings with potential sponsors. Finance shared service centers rely heavily on technology, and Molina believed that industry companies would be interested in sponsoring the game and hosting it on their website as well.
The game developers were charged with creating a game with seven elements:
- Was easy-to-play
- Was relevant to sharedserviceslink.com’s target market
- Brought humor to the finance function
- Promoted sharedserviceslink.com’s product
- Generated leads
- Motivated players to challenge colleagues and friends to create a viral effect
- Included a leader board so players could compete for prizes
Molina said he had several goals tied to these elements such as promoting the new website, generating interaction and involvement with the brand, and generating leads. A more concrete goal was to increase website visits by 50% through the gamification strategy.
The result was "Kill the Paper Invoice
Gameplay involved catching paper invoices falling towards your character and keying in the data on the invoice before the next falls. Uncaught invoices began building a pile. The game also featured "powerballs" branded with sharedserviceslink.com.
Players lost, or were "fired," when they either missed three invoices or let the pile get out of control. The game was free to play and didn’t require any registration to begin.
Lead capture occurred once a player finished the game. To enter the leader board, and become eligible for prizes, players were presented with a registration form. At that point, they were also given the opportunity to challenge their colleagues, spreading the message about the game.
"We had a game that was directly appealing to the day-to-day pain points of our target market," stated Molina. "It communicated the fact that sharedserviceslink.com could help you get rid of your paper invoices by killing them all in one go."
Step #3. Market the strategy through multiple channels
"To maximize our exposure, we combined digital social media and email with [offline] through postcard mail shots," said Molina.
This multichannel effort included:
- Postcards with an invitation to play the game mailed to the opt-in member database
- A total of eight weekly email sends to the database
- A one-month "aggressive" campaign combining external media and third-party email collaboration
- A one-month PPC campaign including Google AdWords and targeted banner ads
- A social media campaign over the entire two-months involving LinkedIn, Twitter and the company blog
- The social campaign also leveraged relationships with industry blogs and websites
- Coordination with sharedserviceslink.com’s existing sponsor and marketing partners
- A prize incentive to register for the leaderboard
Each goal for each channel was to create visibility and interaction with the "Kill the Paper Invoice" game, the centerpiece of the entire strategy.
"The only tricky part of the campaign was the postcard piece we did," said Molina. "But, we did it as a brand awareness exercise as an additional insert in our regular mailings."
Molina said the non-engaged contacts in the database performed best, and email was the most effective part of the effort.
He added, "The social media and PPC part of the campaign didn’t bring enough volume; however, we decided to keep it live until the end of the whole process."
Not all partners are early adopters
The gamification idea didn’t appeal across all of sharedserviceslink.com’s customers. Molina felt one corporate sponsor had a lot of synergy with the "Kill the Paper Invoice" game based on its product offering. That partner viewed the game idea as just too risky.
"This would have given us additional reach through their contact lists," explained Molina. "So, this was perhaps the only thing that didn’t work as I planned it."
Step #4. Monitor and react to the game
The game ran for eight weeks and at the end, the top five players on the leader board each received an iPad.
The marketing team stayed proactive while the game ran and adjusted the marketing effort based on tracking email analytics.
"It was clear that email was bringing the most visits to the site, so we decided to concentrate on a steady flow of different emails to our list and existing players from the first part of the campaign," Molina stated.
He added, "We started publishing the leader board scores twice a day, and started with the ‘teaser emails’ toward the last four weeks of the campaign."
The "teaser emails" compared the recipient’s game score to the top of the leader board.
Although Molina began the campaign with confidence, the move was risky in the sense his polling and customer outreach research found no other example of a gamification marketing effort in his industry. This was uncharted territory, and his main goal was to increase visits to the new website by 50%.
Over the first month of the campaign:
- Website visits increased by 108.5%
- Unique website visits increased by 99.8%
Over the second month of the campaign:
- Website visits increased by 95.9%
- Unique website visits increased by 81.4%
Other results include:
- 34% increase in membership database
- 9.38% conversion rate from game page visit to data capture
- 19.7% of leader board entrants forwarded the game to a colleague
And, the game stats:
- 20% only played the game once
- 30% played more than five times
- 5% actively pursued the game’s prize
"The gamification campaign was specifically created to launch the new website," said Molina. "But, we have ideas and plans to develop it further. There are many opportunities to further the concept with some of our sponsors. We have created a real following of game players that are coming back to our website to still play the game."
Useful links related to this article
1. Game screenshot
3. Launch email
4. PPC and banner adsSharedserviceslink.comKill the Paper Invoice
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